After a stressful, seemingly endless, uncomfortable and mildly invasive ultrasound, the midwife confirmed it - I'd had a missed miscarriage. Basically, while I thought I was 10 weeks pregnant, the embryo/future baby I'd been carrying had stopped developing at about 7 weeks. Since it could take up to 2 more weeks for my body to recognize that my pregnancy wasn't viable and start the miscarriage process on it's own, I decided to exercise what little control I had over this situation and have a medically managed miscarriage. That meant I could go home, clear my schedule for the next few days, and take a medicine that would induce the miscarriage.
The day before, my husband and I went to the midwives' office full of excitement. It was the appointment where we would get to hear the heartbeat for the first time! I had been writing in a pregnancy journal daily, thoughts and feelings that I hoped to share with my future child one day. I'd started knitting because I wanted my baby to be wrapped in woolly love immediately. I'd even taken a 3 hour glucose test (My health history must've flagged me to take the 1 hour test, which I failed) proving that I was already a kick ass mom because, honestly, that test sucks. I consider it a small miracle that both my nausea and my "hanger" kept themselves in check that day.
But the midwife couldn't find a heartbeat with the Doppler. Or the ultrasound. And the office wasn't equipped to do a full ultrasound, I'd have to go to the radiology lab for that. And they were closed. Because I'd booked the last appointment of the day so my husband could come with me.
*Cue 16 hours of trying to remain calm while obsessively looking things up on the internet.*
I did my best to stay hopeful while also preparing for bad news. I could have a tilted uterus and a baby hiding deep in my belly. I could have miscounted how far along I was (I didn't. There was no way I was off by more than a day or two - certainly not by a few weeks.) Maybe the midwife was just bad at finding heartbeats (this seemed unlikely).
I learned about the different types of miscarriages, and what the next steps would be if I was having one. I guesstimated when I might be able to get pregnant again and looked up future possible due dates, in case it turned out I wasn't due in September anymore, then immediately felt guilty for giving up on this pregnancy before I knew whether or not it was over.
But it was over. It had been over before I even went in for my first appointment. And now instead of celebrating, I was going home to grieve.
Here's a text message I never imagined I'd have to send:
"I have to cancel our plans. I'm having a miscarriage."
6 weeks earlier, I thought I had gotten my period. But when spotting didn't turn into a heavier flow like normal, I figured I'd pee on a stick just to be sure.
When I glanced over and saw the pregnant + sign my reaction hovered between shock and disbelief. These emotions quickly morphed into excitement and a couple hours later I was at the bookstore, picking out books for me and my husband.
When I was pregnant I felt like I was carrying around a precious secret. As I marched in the women's march and everyone talked about how awesome it was that one friend was marching pregnant and another had brought her baby, I mentally whispered to my future little one "yes, it is awesome and I will tell you all about it someday".
I bit my tongue every time someone asked "How are you?" As a person who rarely answers this common question with "good" or "fine", I desperately wanted to say "I'm exhausted. And excited! I am tired of being tired - I mean how much sleep does a person need before you feel rested again? I’M PREGNANT!!!! Also, I'm mildly nauseous all the time. Except when I'm dancing. Which is strange, but very helpful since it means I feel better when I'm teaching. I’m GOING TO HAVE A BABY!!! What's new with you?!"
Now I alternated between shock and a sadness so deep it felt like my guts were being ripped out of my body. Actually, the miscarriage itself really did feel like my insides were being shredded apart. When your midwife tells you the miscarriage will feel like a heavier, crampier period and your normal period means spending 2 days a month curled up in a ball bargaining with God for some relief.... you know you're in for a bumpy ride.
It didn't help that seemingly everyone I knew was either giving birth or announcing their pregnancy as I lay on the couch literally expelling the "products of conception."
Thank God for Mike Birbiglia. Oddly enough, even after a ton of suggestions came through my Facebook poll of what to watch, stand up comedy and 10 Things I Hate About You were exactly what I needed.
Afterwards I thought I'd be fine. And I was and I wasn't. Late at night, when everything was quiet, waves of deep sadness would wash over me. I had mentally planned out the entire year - trips, career goals, holiday plans - according to how far along I'd be, and now all of that was wrong. I felt lonely. Empty. Unsure of what to do next. And I didn't have the energy to map everything out again.
I was pretty adamant that my miscarriage did not need to be some big secret. Miscarriage is fairly common, yet it's not commonly talked about. We shared what was happening immediately with the handful of family and friends who knew I was pregnant, but when I started telling people who hadn't known - well let's just say I was awkward and terrible at it. (Is it possible to be good at it?) I wanted people to know, but it made me so nervous - when do I bring it up? How do I share? How do I say "I was pregnant" without people mis-hearing me and getting excited before I could also share the updated, but much sadder news?
Now when people asked "How are you?" I wanted to say "It's been a crazy winter. I was pregnant. And now I'm not. And it's been… a multitude of emotions." I did say that to some people, but sometimes the circumstances didn't feel quite right.
How do you say "I had a miscarriage" when a friend calls to tell you she's pregnant?
When everyone at a baby shower starts sharing pregnancy stories, how do you say "Oh yeah, when I was pregnant…" when no one knows you were… and now you aren't?
I wished there was a kind, simple way to notify everyone in my life that this big, important, sad thing had happened.
I considered making "I had a miscarriage." my Facebook status.
When someone you love dies, you can send an email out to your inner circle and they spread the word for you. Then friends can choose how they show up - whether it's by sending a card or sharing a memory or giving flowers or dropping off a casserole.
I wonder what would've happened if the people we told had gently spread the news to others. Actually, I got a glimpse of what that would look like. I told my mom this was not something she needed to keep a secret and as a result, people I've known my whole life opened up about their miscarriages and offered me support, love and a listening ear.
This helped me more than those women could ever know. Because when I found out I was having a miscarriage, I could hardly think of anyone I knew who had been through this experience. If 1 in every 5 known pregnancies ends in miscarriage, where were the other women who understood what I was going through?
I don't know what would make miscarriage easier or more normal to talk about, especially since trying to conceive is often something people keep private until they have exciting news to announce. But I wonder what would happen if when we talked socially about pregnancy, it wasn't just about morning sickness and cravings, but also about what it took to get there.
If we were more open about not just the "ups" but also the "downs" of becoming a mom, maybe instead of whispering "You are alone. Don't talk about this. No one will understand." the voice inside us would whisper "This is hard, but others have been here. You can reach out to them."
Once the rawness of my loss calmed down a bit, I started searching/asking for reasons to be grateful for my miscarriage. I'm not quite there yet, but over the last months these things have happened:
I have learned hard lessons in patience - with healing and self-imposed timelines for becoming a mom.
I have become more compassionate. At first it felt like everyone was getting pregnant and having babies. Everyone but me. And then I realized I had no idea what their journey to pregnancy and motherhood looked like. I am making fewer assumptions and judgements now.
I have received so much kindness. There were friends who brought dinner or who checked in on me - even weeks later - to say "I've been thinking of you. How are you doing?" It filled me with love to know that even though days or weeks had passed, my experience had not been forgotten.
I have an even better relationship with my husband. Going through this together reinforced that we are committed to our marriage (in good times and bad) and taught us more about how to be there for each other when life throws us a curveball.
I feel, more deeply than ever, how important it is to continue on my path as a teacher and helping other people be brave. Because, the way I see it, the wholehearted, soul-centered life I want to live is only possible by being real - 100% authentic to myself and others about my experiences AND creating a community of people who are ready and willing to do the same.
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